It is that time of year when many people will be buying all sorts of things. Many of us (including me) may choose not to fight the crowds at the stores and shop from the comfort of our own home using our computer and the Internet.
This time of year brings out even more scam artists, crooks and people trying to rip you off. You have to be even more diligent. Here are some tips that hopefully you will find useful.
Be cautious. Have an attitude of trust nothing and verify everything.
Update your Operating System (OS). Software companies are always producing updates to make their software more secure and work better. The only thing standing between you and a successful attack could be an updated OS.
Update your antivirus software. New viruses are created daily. You must keep your antivirus software updated.
Update your browser. In my experience, Google Chrome is more secure than Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Whatever browser you choose to use, keep it updated so it can have a fighting chance of protecting you from various attacks.
Practice safe surfing. Don’t go to websites that could potentially be infected. How do you know what sites may be infected? I use Web of Trust and it has been very helpful.
Be careful where you click. Don’t click on suspicious links in emails, especially if you do not know the person (organization or company) that sent you the email. It could be a phishing attack.
Keep your credit info to yourself. When possible, say no when a site offers to store your credit card info on their site. Yes, it is more convenient the next time you shop, but what if that site is hacked. A crook may have your personal information.
Avoid public Wi-Fi. You never know if a bad guy has installed his own wireless access point (WAP) at the local coffee shop. Any info you send and receive to his WAP could be seen (stolen) by the stranger.
Strong Passwords. Often the main line of defense in keeping your accounts safe is your password. Use string passwords and don’t use the same password for every site. See my blog post about strong passwords.
2 is better than 1. If a website offers two factor authentication, use it. If a crook gets your password, she will still not be able to access your account unless she has the second part of your authentication credentials, which could be a code sent to your cell phone.
Credit VS. Debit. Use a credit card. You will have much better recourse if there is a problem.
Check Prices. Don’t just click and buy the first item you see. You should check around and compare prices. You can use the sites below to compare prices.
Shop with who you know and trust. A new or unknown site may have the lowest price, but can you trust them? Use Bizrate to check reviews of online merchants.
Shop securely. Look for sites that have HTTPS in the beginning of the website address. Also look for a little picture of a padlock. The S means the site is using Single Sockets Layer (SSL). With SSL, information traveling from your computer to the merchants computers is encrypted and can’t be read as it is traveling through the Internet. You may not see HTTPS when you visit the initially connect to a website. You should definitely see HTTPS and the padlock when you are about to type in and send your personal information to a merchant. If you don’t, shop elsewhere.
Happy safe shopping,
John L. Jones